The Consequences of Obama’s Likely Loss on Syria

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As the vote to authorize a U.S. attack on Syria nears this week, President Barack Obama is preparing to grant six interviews on Monday, and to address the nation on Tuesday. But the opposition is growing in strength and has the upper hand. The debate itself, brought about by Obama’s decision first to ignore Congress, then to reverse himself, has already damaged his stature. A “no” vote will have even more far-reaching effects.

One effect will be to punish Obama for once leading the anti-war movement as U.S. troops were fighting difficult battles in Iraq. After all, Congress will merely be holding him to the standard he set for his predecessor–that the U.S. should not defy the UN or the international community, and that the president should not order an attack absent “an actual or imminent threat.” It is only just that Obama be hoisted by his own petard.

Another effect will be to curtail the runaway executive powers of the Obama presidency–again by holding him to the limits he laid down in criticizing the executive overreach of his predecessor. Obama has since far exceeded the Bush excess, often vowing to go around Congress, openly defying existing law in the case of immigration and Obamacare. For him to lose a war vote would be the ultimate rebuke and would, finally, set a boundary.



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